Exhibition Project
Becoming Animal, Becoming Human
Animal Perspectives
Kathy High

The work of American multi-media artist Kathy High is frequently focused on animals and processes of becoming. For example, in “Animal Attraction” she shot a video which details the appointments of an animal communicator who is trying to determine the reasons behind the strange behaviors of “problematic” pets.

“Trans-Tamagotchi,” on the other hand, represents a continuation of her earlier installation, “Embracing animals,” in which High allows us to observe living, transgenetic rats in a fictional laboratory situation. The motivation behind these two projects is quite personal – High’s own autoimmune disorder. Because for research purposes the rats were provided with human DNA, hence with dispositions for specific human illnesses, at a biological level the rats involved are partially human.

High bought three such rats – Matilda, Tara and Star – from a laboratory and attempted to heal them with the same alternative methods she had also tested on herself for self-therapy and to enrich their lives in various ways. Through this form of interspecies interaction, she seeks to awaken empathy for the humanized rats, on the one hand, and to create an awareness of the contradictory attitudes toward animals, where one species is treated as “man’s best friend” and another as disposable.

For “Trans-Tamagotchi,” among other things, test tubes are set up in an imaginary laboratory situation equipped with integrated LCD monitors displaying scenes of human-animal metamorphoses as well as sculptures of transgenetic rats honoring them with a sort of memorial bust for their various services on behalf of laboratory medicine. All of this is combined with the projection of a video game in Tamagotchi style. And yet each virtual figure whose specific care is followed in the video has its own genetically-induced illness triggered by the introduction of human DNA into rodent genes. With this critique of animal treatment in the pharmaceutical industry and of the new method of animal breeding brought about by biotechnology, High also investigates identification and transformation processes as well as the ethical implications of the sisterhood between humans and animals, making explicit references to the writings of Donna Haraway.

Jessica Ullrich

Trans-Tamagotchi, 2009, Installation

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